By Dr. Valerie Wardlaw – Before an estimated crowd of 70,000-plus fans at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, the Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals, 23-20, marking the second straight year a host team has also won the big game. It’s the second Super Bowl win for the Rams, who won its only other Super Bowl as the St. Louis Rams in 2000, beating the Tennessee Titans, 23-16.
This team wasn’t the 2000 Rams that took the field at SoFi on Sunday. This cast of players entered the game filled with backstories of redemption, purpose, and pride – knowing they could not lose this game in their house. Quarterback Matthew Stafford landed in Los Angeles after laboring 12 seasons with the Detroit Lions. With small children in tow and his college sweetheart wife, who is a victorious warrior in her own right, the Stafford’s were ready for their LA debut. The City of Angels was a gamble for all, lest we forget that the Rams paid handsomely to get Stafford – trading former quarterback Jared Goff, two first-round picks, and a third-round pick to the Lions in 2020 in hopes of an immediate championship run. Acquiring Stafford was a genius move with all the makings of a Hollywood-type ending. Stafford could have easily been the MVP of the Super Bowl, but that honor would go to his teammate and favorite target, Cooper Kupp. In his first Super Bowl win, Stafford would finish the day with 283 yards, 3TDs, and 2 INTs. On winning the Super Bowl, Stafford said, “It feels great. Just so happy to be able to celebrate this with such great teammates and my family, people who mean the most to me and so proud of this group, and it’s a special feeling.”
Then there was the talented receiver Odell Beckham Jr., a recent addition to the Rams who signed a one-year contract on November 11. Beckham displaying maturity, humility, proudly wearing his faith on his sleeves, awaiting the birth of his baby, let the tears flow as he embraced his new title of champion. Beckham would score in the first quarter providing the Rams with an early lead over the Bengals. The six-play, 50-yard drive resulted in a 17-yard strike from Stafford for the first score of the day. Beckham would leave the field in the second quarter with a knee injury. You could feel the anxiousness of his team when his non-contact injury prevented his return to the field. Beckham finished the day with two receptions for 52 yards and one TD. “This was exactly God’s plan”, Beckham said.
Rounding out the Ram’s play were many – Cooper Kupp, the game’s MVP who caught the game-winning pass ending the Bengals, hopes of hoisting their first Lombardi trophy.
Von Miller, the smiling, tenacious linebacker who recently joined the roster on November 1, and the man who pleaded with Beckham to come to LA. Miller, who had two sacks, tied the record for most sacks in Super Bowl appearances with 4.5. This was Miller’s second Super Bowl win, the first with the Denver Broncos and his former team was on his mind as Miller dedicated his play to his former teammate Demaryius Thomas, who passed away last year. Miller joined defensive specialist extraordinaire lineman Aaron Donald, who was relentless in his pursuit of Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow. Donald, one of the best defensive players in the NFL, put the game out of reach for the Bengals as he pressured Burrow on fourth down in the last seconds of the game. Donald, a pro-bowler, a First-Team All-Pro for seventh straight years, and a perennial winner of the Defensive Player of the Year award, went after this win with a vengeance. Miller and Donald led a defensive attack that saw Joe Burrow sacked seven times. After the win, there was speculation that Donald might retire at a young 30 years. Donald offered this to reporters, “I’m just in the moment right now,” he said. “I’m enjoying this with my family. I promised my daughter this when she was five years old, to play in the confetti … so I’m just in the moment right now. I’m going to enjoy this with my teammates, my family and I’m just going to be in the moment and enjoy this today, for a couple days, how about that? It’s a blessing.”
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